Emotional and Mental Health as a Football Coach
Have you ever been exhausted with the feeling of whew? It seems that you are stressed out, need a break from the normal day to day? The thought crosses your mind how buried you are, and you are in need of time? A former business owner I worked for once told me to guard and secure my mental space. At the time as a 20 year old, I could not really appreciate this advice. For those of you not familiar with the term “mental space” allow me to explain in brief detail. Your mental space is a time when you think clearly, reflect, plan, and dream. This is a place alone with your thoughts, in a quiet void that is absent from social media, technological engagement, or any other type of distractions.
I want to look deep at how to: unclutter your mind, think more clearly, and boost your effectiveness.
What are Distractions?
Coaching is now a hyperactive and attention-demanding profession. It now involves social media, marketing, recruitment, and constant technical stimulation. No longer does the day stop when the light are turned off at the office. Just think about the amount of phone numbers in our personal cell phones or followers on twitter. How about scrolling through the app on your device, how many would you see? How many are needed and what is an excuse for “past time?” The functions of our phones, beeps, vibrations, notifications are all design to get our attention. Anything designed to get your attention is a tool to distract.
We are so conditioned today that distractions are meaningless reactions. Our society has trained our brains to react in our daily pattern and subconsciously do our day to day lives. That means that the distractions are no longer a distraction, but a normalcy in our daily lives. Our mind is conditioned to dings, vibrations, and notifications that it is a way of subconscious life. This is scary because only insignificant tasks can be performed in parallel with distractions. We are so far distracted from our ability to find mental space, that we are no longer able to apply direct mental space. We are so grossly indulged into these distractions, that it seems to us we life cannot merely exist without them. Instead of a novelty it has become as vital as air psychologically. Our distractions have become life.
Distractions keep us from spending the needed (our most precious resource as leaders) to think clearly, dream, reflect, and most importantly to plan. What you sit and define as a distraction in your day-to-day is something that is over indulging your ability to satisfy you biological needs to be the most dynamic leader possible. If you feel you are there is not enough of (our most precious resource as leaders) then our distractions need to be regulated. In coaching it is easy to become overwhelmed by an occupation that you once completed daily. How you once had a clear mindset of direction, completion, and even rewarding check-points are now buried underneath the stress of what we think is life, distractions.
Your Most Precious Resource
Focused attention is the brain’s ability to concentrate its attention on a target stimulus for any period of time. Focused attention is a type of attention that makes it possible to quickly detect relevant stimuli.
I have mentioned in parenthesis (our most precious resource as leaders), now allow me to define this. A leaders most precious resource is not time, but their focused attention. Focused attention is what we all possessed when we stepped into this profession. It is full of inspiration, deep-rooted thinking, and immense problem solving. I think back to when I am focused, and that occurs when I am distraction free. Focused attention requires “mental space,” and this requires time. I bet over 80% of our conversations are actually divided attention, instead of focused. That is monumental in our daily lives, because conversation is person to person stimulus. We are thought that multi-tasking is a vital trait, but when multi-tasking no significant tasks can be completed with divided attention. How much of ourselves are we diluting because of what has seemed to become normalcy?
Leaders typically face intense demands on their time! I know that we are always searching and fighting for time, but this is counter productive. Time cannot be made, it has to be scheduled. Focused attention makes things happen during the allotted time. We often get stuck in the rut of success being found in long hours, less sleep, more distracting involvements for an extended period of time. This is not the recipe for success, but for burn out and failure. The time is constantly spent on the distractions, that do now allow us to properly plan, think, dream, and renew our minds and purpose. We live in an information-rich, time-poor society, that is constantly seeking and stressed about not getting everything accomplished, but we approach full of distractions. It is easy to conduct our day to day like a huge virtual “wheres waldo” puzzle.
If we want to make significant impact in a minimal amount of time, then we must be able to secure investment not indulgence. Investment is committing capital to something with the plan of a return or profit. That means you have a purpose to your plan. Indulgence is having something more than what is good for you. We often indulge in our distractions, and automatically blame lack of time. When we should look at investing in focused attention to receive the return for our labor.
What allows you to add value isn’t the extra hours spent working, but rather the quality of their focused attention. True meaningful work requires intense thought and focus. In order to accomplish this we have to avoid the attention leaks that we face everyday. For lack of better terms, whatever we determine as a distraction. Multi-tasking in those situations inevitably results insignifcant ineffeciences as we switch our focus and lose focus before returning to a deeper level of thought.
Step away. Every coach I have met is competitive and driven people. This is an absolute personality trait in this industry, but you need time away from competition. A couple of years ago I bout kayaks for my family. I allow my wife to carry a cell phone for emergency purposes, but I leave mine in our truck. It allows me to drift away from tv, espn, talk radio, blog post, clinics, podcasts, and for a few hours, I am able to drift engage in focused conversation, and allow myself to think, reflect, dream, and plan. There is a definite difference between being a driven person and being a drove person, and it took me a long time to find peace with that.
In closing I would like to extend that I continue to struggle with distractions, and I have even been a distraction to you as you are reading this post. I learned that protecting my mental space allows me to keep some time open for renewing, planning, dreaming, and thinking. This adds tremendous value to our occupations as professionals, and allows our beings to see progress in our labor. We will naturally be more creative and replenish our stares of attention. Whatever you find to eliminate distractions from your life and return to a driven person will be a renewing experience to an occupation that can seem overbearing sometimes.